Need opinions on "Birth of a Nation" DVD

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Todd_Brown, Oct 24, 2001.

  1. Todd_Brown

    Todd_Brown Second Unit

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    I'm reading a book on the history of movies. Just finished a section on Griffith's "Birth of a Nation", the movie caused quite a stir, and was very controversial. The chapter intrigued me and I want to see the film. "Birth of a Nation" was released by Madacy, and hearing the horror stories of Madacy's "Metropolis", I was wondering if there were any opinions of this title. I could pick it up for only a few bucks, but I don't want to see a classic if it is ruined by a poor release.
    Todd
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  2. Cameron Seaman

    Cameron Seaman Supporting Actor

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    If you can, pick up Image's release. I haven't seen it, but from what I understand, it's the best transfer yet.
    Another problem you'll see with this release is the fact that different versions have different running times. I don't think there is a consensus on which length is the definitive cut.
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  3. Brian W.

    Brian W. Screenwriter

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    The Image version is the closest to the premiere cut, so I'd buy that. It's over 3 hours long.
    The only other version worth having is from E-Realbiz, which was restored in the late 80s or early 90s by Disney's Scott MacQueen. It also runs over 3 hours. It has slightly cleaner video, but the contrast is too high and the tinting in the picture is oversaturated. However, it also has clips from the black "response" to the film, "The Birth of a Race."
    Problem is, the E-Realbiz is a recut Griffith did some 6 years after its 1915 premiere, and there are some editing techniques he employed that are more sophisticated than what is in the earlier Image version (we can't accurately say "original"). For example, in the original cut, Lillian Gish holds her hand up to her brow at the end of a shot, we cut away fleetingly to another scene, then cut back to Gish, WITH HER HAND STILL UP TO HER BROW. No time has passed in Gish's scene--there has been no continuity in the editing. In the 1921 re-cut, this same shot cuts back to Gish a second or two later in the scene, after her hand is down and she's pacing the room. Obviously, Griffith had discovered or learned continuity editing in the six years between the two cuts of the film. So the film's value as a technical innovation is somewhat lost in the re-cut. You see what I'm saying?
    If you can afford both DVDs, I'd buy them both (the E-Realbiz is widely available for well under $15). But if you want to see the closest thing to the ORIGINAL "Birth of a Nation" and the filmmaking techniques it PIONEERED, I'd buy the Image DVD.
    [Edited last by Brian W. on October 25, 2001 at 11:27 PM]
    [Edited last by Brian W. on October 25, 2001 at 11:29 PM]
     
  4. James D S

    James D S Screenwriter

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    Another vote for the Image version. Cleanest print used. However, the RealBiz version is good to have for the "Birth of a Race" abridged version. It's not near as impressive a feature as BOAN, but it's good for history.
    Cameron is right, there is no consensus on the definitive cut. Griffith kept tweaking it long after its initial run. And the original cut no longer exists. [​IMG]
     
  5. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    Griffith was notorious for showing up at places where the film was showing, and if a sequence didn't work for the audience, he'd cut it out then and there. Records are quite inadequate, so as noted by previous posters, a definitive BOAN is impossible to produce. The Image version does a very nice job, however. My review at dOc is here: http://www.digitallyobsessed.com/showreview.php3?ID=29
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  6. Matt Everett

    Matt Everett Stunt Coordinator

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    Does anyone have any advice on the new Kino issues of Griffith's films? I'm interested in the Masterworks box set but haven't seen any reviews.

    Thanks,

    Matt
     
  7. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

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    I have the Kino box set but haven't had a chance to check anything out. I'll chime in when I do. [​IMG]
     
  8. Bryant Trew

    Bryant Trew Second Unit

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    This is one film I refuse to purchase regardless of it's historical/artistic merit.
     
  9. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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  10. Greg_Y

    Greg_Y Screenwriter

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  11. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    Greg
    Thanks for the link to the older thread, just might pick up both versions.
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